Skip to main content

Full text of "An experiment in home education"

See other formats

Jy <>, *• - » • A <^ *?r7. 

o " • , <J> 

* 'SsBIIIIKlIls' ° 

A <^> ^ 


■: - . 



Mr. and Mrs. George Wallingford Noyes 



Copyright, 1914, by 
Mr. and Airs. George Wallingford Noyes 

OCT 24 1914 



DURING the years 1911 and 1912, through 
much alternation of theory and experience, 
we groped our way into a plan of home-making, 
that seemed to us to possess a high order of 
educational and economic value. In April, 1912, 
we commenced an experimental test of our plan. 
As time has passed, and the success of our ex- 
periment has become apparent, we have talked 
about it with leading educators and economists. 
Recently there have been references to it in the 
public press, and we have received many in- 
quiries. We are therefore stating briefly in this 
paper the purpose of our home experiment, and 
its results to the present time. 

Educational Advantages of the Home 

Many thinkers have recognized that in cer- 
tain respects the home has a natural educational 
advantage over the school, and that in order to 
attain the best results the home, as well as the 
school, must play its part. 

One educational advantage of the home is in 
the cultivation of a habit of industry. The 
school with its trained instructors and more com- 
plete equipment is strong in theory and tech- 
nique, but, lacking the pressure of need, it is 


apt to foster a dilettante attitude toward work. 
The training received in the home is primarily 
determined by actual need, and is put to im- 
mediate use. Along with it go the stimulation 
of useful achievement, and right ideas of the 
value and dignity of work. 

Another educational advantage of the home 
is in the cultivation of altruism. The tendency of 
the school system is mainly individualistic. In 
the school the child himself is the center of 
interest. The teachers, the buildings, the equip- 
ment exist for his benefit. The course of in- 
struction aims chiefly at preparing him for 
competition with his fellows. But in every 
rightly organized home the child is not the cen- 
ter, but a subordinate part. Moreover the 
urgent needs of the home, especially where no 
servants are employed, make constant appeals 
to altruism, and provide ideal conditions for 
putting it constantly into practice. 

A third educational advantage of the home is 
in the teaching of religion. The essence of 
religion is an intent on the part of the individual 
to subordinate himself to the society of which 
Christ is Head; and the aim of religious educa- 
tion is to build up gradually in the mind of the 
child, to be ready formed against the time when 
his own developing nature will demand an ideal, 
the elements of this supreme intent. To ac- 
complish this there must be depth and unity of 


conviction, the influence of example, and freedom 
of expression. With respect to all these condi- 
tions the home has a natural superiority over 
the school. 

The school is strong in teaching technique, 
but weak in teaching industry; strong in culti- 
vating individuality, but weak in cultivating 
altruism; strong in perfecting the powers, but 
weak in perfecting the intent; in a word, strong 
in providing sharp tools, but weak in the building 
of character. In all these points where the school 
is weak, the home is naturally strong. 

Work an Essential Factor 

These natural educational advantages of the 
home all flow either directly or indirectly from 
the need of bringing the children into the work. 
Two or three generations ago, when the country 
was poor and the industrial system crude, this 
need was nearly universal. But in recent years 
the progress of large-scale production by factory 
and farm has greatly narrowed the field of home 
industry, and in prosperous homes where ser- 
vants are employed the need for bringing the 
children into the work has been almost entirely 
taken away. These new conditions have re- 
sulted in a serious educational loss, especially in 
the families of the prosperous class. 

The Purpose of Our Experiment 

In view of these facts we set before ourselves 
the purpose of adapting our home to modern 


conditions, so as to bring out again and develop 
to the utmost the natural superiority of the home 
in the sphere of character-building. 

Saving the Work for Education 

In order to realize this purpose the first 
requisite was to rescue from the hireling system 
a sufficient amount of work to serve as a home 
industry. At first we thought that a compro- 
mise might be effected, letting one of our two 
servants go, and reserving a special area of work 
for education. But as long as even one servant 
resided in the house, the children rebelled 
against work. We found that the systems of 
hired and voluntary service did not work well 
side by side. There was a psychological re- 
pugnance between them, just as there was be- 
tween slave and free labor; and as slavery in the 
South nearly drove out free labor, so hired 
service in our house tended to paralyze volun- 
tary service. It became then a question of 
dispensing entirely with hired servants residing 
in the house, and restricting hired service by the 
hour to such small proportions as would not 
paralyze voluntary work by the family. 

Next came the problem of bringing the 
necessary work of the house within the compass 
of the family without over-burdening any 
member. To accomplish this we applied to our 
house the so-called "long-stroke small-bore" 


principle, increasing as far as possible the labor- 
saving equipment and reducing as far as possible 
the necessary work. Fortunately our house was 
small, and a projected wing was of course 
abandoned. Then we introduced the following 
labor-saving mechanical equipment: 

Items Approx. 


Connection with a central steam-heating 
plant about two hundred yards dis- 
tant, thus getting rid of the care of a 
furnace, banishing coal and ashes from 
the basement, and making more room . # 800 

Soft water cistern of extra large capacity, 
electric pump for pumping the water to 
an attic tank, supplying unlimited soft 
water, both hot and cold, all over the 
house 300 

Stationary electric vacuum cleaner of 
large size in the basement, with stand- 
pipe from basement to attic, and hose 
connections on all floors 300 

Electric kitchen range 50 

Fireless cooker 16 

Electric dishwasher, hotel size, with 
capacity of about seven hundred pieces 
per hour 210 

Extra dishes and silverware, to permit 

dishwashing once in two days ... 85 

Double-deck wheel tray 11 

Total 31772 


By referring to the accompanying diagram 
and photographs it will be seen that the plan of 
the kitchen, pantry, dining-room and porch has 
been designed with the aim of securing maximum 
efficiency. One side of the kitchen has in it 
everything relating to the preparation of food: 
electric range with utensils, fireless cooker, 
vegetable sink, pantry, work-table. Because of 
no heat or dust the pantry has no door, and open 
shelves to a large extent take the place of cup- 
boards. Thus a person standing in the central 
space can reach everything required in the prep- 
aration of food with a minimum of effort. The 
other side of the kitchen has in it everything 
used in cleaning up after a meal: dish-washer, 
utensils for dishwashing, shelves for dishes, 
wheel tray; and the lines of travel from the 
dining-room or porch to the dishwashing de-' 
partment do not cross the space reserved for 
the preparation of food. The porch adjoining 
the kitchen is used in summer as an outdoor 
dining-room. As it is completely screened no 
screen door, which would interfere with free 
passage between kitchen and porch, is needed. 

A very considerable practical help, though 
by no means necessary to the success of the plan, 
is the fact that our house is situated within two 
hundred yards of a Club Restaurant, where in 
emergencies we can obtain our meals. We 


regularly go to this restaurant for our Sunday 

Duties Must Be Made Attractive 

An essential part of the plan is to make all 
the duties of the home as attractive and whole- 
some as possible. The fact that the vacuum 
cleaner, electric range, and dishwasher reduce 
dust, heat and drudgery, is as important as the 
fact that they expedite the work. It is a for- 
tunate circumstance that transportation, which 
by means of an automobile can be made attrac- 
tive, is such a large element in the necessary 
work of the home. 

The walls of our kitchen are of Keene cement, 
tinted the color of sunlight, and the woodwork 
is finished in white enamel. The windows are 
large, and the ventilation perfect. It is in fact 
fully as attractive as any room in the house. 

An important factor in making work attrac- 
tive is working with others. Work done alone 
is often drudgery, when the same work done by 
storm in "bees" is attractive. Association of 
the family puts into housework some of the es- 
prit de corps that makes business so irresistibly 

Operating Expenses 

The cost of running the house and providing 
the table varies so much with the varying cir- 
cumstances and desires of different families, that 


it is difficult to present any comparisons which 
are of much value. The increased cost for 
interest on investment, and for repairs and de- 
preciation, is more than offset by the saving in 
the wages and waste of servants, and our records 
show that the expense of the new plan is some- 
what less than the old. This is allowing nothing 
for the educational value of the new plan. If 
an allowance is made of the amount which any 
family would gladly pay to a school for the 
domestic science training alone, to say nothing 
of the moral and spiritual results, the compari- 
son in favor of the new plan would be over- 


It might be objected that with a servantless 
house the father and mother would find it more 
difficult to leave home. Our experience has 
been the reverse. Whenever we have occasion 
to leave home, we secure the services of a 
trained nurse competent to care for the children 
and manage the house. We give her the option 
of getting the meals at home with the help of 
the children, or going to the Club Restaurant. 
As a matter of fact the efficiency and attrac- 
tiveness of the kitchen are such that the nurse has 
always elected to have the meals at home. 

Some one will say: Do not the children 
break, spill, and injure a great deal in the process 
of learning? We answer: Yes, at the outset; 


but they very quickly learn to avoid it. And 
after all what higher use can these material 
things be put to than cultivating skill, endur- 
ance, efficiency, and a spirit of service for use in 
adult life? People are willing to pay large sums 
for artificial education in schools. Why not 
spend a little in the form of breakage for real 
education in the home? 

Again some might think that a child for 
health's sake ought to spend all his time aside 
from school out-of-doors. They forget that one 
of the most vital factors in health, along with 
good food, fresh air, and sleep, is the sense of 
achievement. To be driven out-of-doors for 
health's sake with nothing to do may be actually 
depressing to the health; while useful activity 
a part of the day in the house is stimulating and 
beneficial. A child who helps in the house ac- 
cording to the plan proposed has plenty of time 
left for out-of-doors, and after work is done there 
is greater zest, and therefore greater benefit in 

Another objector will ask: Does not the 
domestic training of the children in addition to 
the regular house work with no servants to help 
throw a heavy burden on the mother? We 
answer: No. The burden is minimized by the 
enormous efficiency of the mechanical equip- 
ment, and by the co-operation of the other 
members of the family. It is also growing 





Living Hoom 

Floor Plan of Dining 
Kitchen Pantry and Po 

steadily less, since the children are all the time 
gaining in the power and will to help. Besides 
the extra burden is far more than offset by the 
improvement in health which is almost certain 
to result from the plan. 

To some perhaps the need of co-operation on 
the part of the father would seem an objection. 
To us, however, this is another mark of the Tight- 
ness of the plan. One reason why the home is so 
backward in its development is the fact that the 
father has not in the past co-operated enough. 
With the help of highly trained specialists he has 
marvelously organized the factory and the office, 
but too often he has left the mother with the 
help only of ignorant servants to fight a losing 
battle against the appalling complexities of the 
home. In the factory and office money is spent 
like water for labor-saving machinery; in the 
home nearly every process is still done labor- 
iously by hand. In the factory and office the 
work is so arranged that the father can take 
regular vacations; in the home utter chaos 
reigns, if the mother steps out from under even 
for a day. The results of this lack of co-opera- 
tion are seen in the numberless mothers who are 
broken down and discouraged at the time of life 
when they ought to be in the prime of health and 
power. The home needs the benefit of the 
father's training and experience; and it is sur- 
prising how little co-operation on his part is re- 


quired to bring into the home the esprit de corps 
that makes work attractive, and the scientific 
management that makes work efficient. 

The experiment described in the foregoing 
pages has been in operation in our family for two 
and a half years, and the results thus far have 
more than justified our expectations. Not only 
have the more obvious results been attained, but 
as time has passed many incidental advantages 
have appeared. 

Practical Training 
No one could question the value of the 
practical training which is provided by this plan. 
The children accommodate themselves as a 
matter of course to the exigencies of a servantless 
home, the amount of compulsion required being 
no more than is necessary to prepare for life. 
The pressure of actual need gives to the work the 
highest degree of utility. To occupy the chil- 
dren with "busy-work" and hire the real work 
done is feeding the children on skim-milk and 
giving to hirelings the rich cream. Our little 
daughter of four, while enthusiastically polishing 
teaspoons on the porch one day, called out to 
every passing playmate: "Oh! Come and see 
me! I am doing real work!" We have been 
told that the domestic science department in 
our universities is seriously hampered by the 
fact that both faculty and students are conscious 


that the work is "make-believe." This skim- 
milk diet of "busy-work" instead of real work 
causes much of the difficulty in profitably and 
happily occupying children at home. It causes 
many parents to turn helplessly to summer 
camps and summer schools as a means of caring 
for their boys and girls during vacations. They 
are blind to the fact that the home itself holds 
by far the greater resources. They throw away 
the precious opportunity vacations offer to in- 
crease comradeship with their children. 

This training in the practical affairs of life 
must be begun early, if it is to be successful. 
Parents sometimes tell us that their daughters 
have no taste for cooking, and cannot be drawn 
into it. The reason in most cases is that the 
psychologic moment for imparting that particu- 
lar training has been allowed to slip by unim- 
proved. A child that is in the stage of making 
mud-pies will jump at the chance to make a real 
cake, and will take patiently a great deal of 
showing. The "sand-bed" age is the time for 
beginning practice in cooking. 

One valuable effect of early training in in- 
dustry is a true appreciation of labor saving. 
If the spilling of a pitcher of cream means only 
extra work for a servant, a child will go obliviously 
to school without learning the lesson of greater 
carefulness; but if the child knows what the 
occurrence means in terms of work, there will be 


definite improvement from that day forth. In 
a family with sons instead of daughters the 
training would naturally take a different form, 
but in any case it would be exactly what 
was needed to prepare the children to be in 
adult life not consumers merely, but producers. 

Effect on Health 

The simplicity and regularity of life rendered 
necessary on this plan work in the direction of 
better health for the entire family. Time would 
fail for preparation of elaborate courses and rich 
desserts, and accordingly a simple, wholesome 
diet must be the rule; and the succession of 
necessary duties compels regularity of life. In a 
prosperous home with servants simplicity and 
regularity of life are not necessary, and the 
difficulty of providing these healthful conditions 
in their homes parents have often given as a 
reason for sending their children away at a 
tender age to boarding-schools. 

Many persons lacking manual work take up 
sport as a duty. The resulting benefit to health 
is less than half what it should be. The manual 
work of a servantless home gives all the exercise 
needed for health, and allows sport to be sought 
for sport's sake. On this plan work and sport 
each on its own account contributes to the health. 

The alternation of manual and mental work 
results in a well-balanced life. How many fami- 


lies one sees in which the mother, struggling 
with spiritual and mental perplexities, is driven 
into neurasthenia, while the physical labor in- 
tended by nature as a healthful counterpoise is 
performed by servants. On the plan proposed 
the manual and mental work counterbalance each 
other, and each contributes its share of benefit 
to the health. 

Cultivation of Altruism 

A servantless home of the kind suggested 
tends to cultivate altruism by a constant appeal 
to the spirit of service. The work required is for 
the urgent needs of the home, and the motive is 
not primarily the perfection of the child's 
powers, but the helping of others. To acquire 
the habit of regarding the feelings and wishes of 
others takes practice, the same as any other 
habit. Could a person play the Chromatic 
Fantasy and Fugue of Bach without practice 
from childhood ? Yet too often a boy is handed 
his university diploma, and told that he must be 
a public-spirited citizen, when up to that moment 
all his practice has been building up selfishness. 
Food, clothing, a beautiful home, recreation, 
travel, schooling, all have come to him through the 
efforts of others, and nothing has been required 
of him in return. When he finally enters upon 
his career the world expects him to be public- 
spirited, and makes no more allowance for lack of 


practice in public spirit than wind and water do 
for lack of practice in swimming. 

Then, too, this plan appeals to altruism in its 
most natural form, which is a regard for the 
feelings and wishes of those whom we love. If 
our immediate wants are ministered to by ser- 
vants, who are paid for their pains, there is small 
chance for altruistic feelings to develop. Under 
the servant regime our children gave little heed 
to accidents which caused extra work: the ser- 
vant was there to attend to it, and she was paid 
for the trouble. But under the new regime, 
when one of the children tore her dress just as 
she was starting for school, she said: "Oh, 
Mother! Save the porch for me to do after 
school!" She sensed the extra work made nec- 
essary by the accident, and wanted to be sure 
that it would not fall on her mother. 

A child who grows up under the servant sys- 
tem often unconsciously develops a mercenary, 
anti-social feeling toward servants and the 
laboring class in general. Almost unavoidably he 
forms wrong ideas of caste, sets up in imagina- 
tion a false aristocracy based on money and leisure, 
and is cut off from sympathy with the toiling 
masses. In a servantless home there is a common 
bond with all who are doing the world's work. 

One incidental advantage of the "long-stroke 
small-bore" house is that each child must share a 
room with a brother or a sister. This means 


constant practice in altruism. The child who 
occupies a room alone, with master-pieces of 
art on the walls, with a perfectly appointed bath- 
room adjoining, with every touch of comfort 
that wealth can give, is a beggar compared with 
the little girl who shares a room with her sister, 
and is learning to make self-sacrificing adjust- 
ments of desires to those of another. 

Moral Muscle 
Not long ago in one of our larger universities 
three students within two weeks committed 
suicide. The cause was probably a lack of 
practice in meeting difficulties, which sooner 
or later are sure to come in every life. A youth 
who has never been trained in childhood to meet 
heroically whatever situation life presents is 
suddenly brought face to face with some great 
sorrow, disappointment, or responsibility. His 
will collapses, and he tries to evade the inevita- 
ble. A child who bears his part in a servantless 
home is getting daily practice from babyhood in 
meeting and overcoming life's difficulties, and 
the moral muscle thus acquired will carry him 
triumphantly through the inevitable struggles of 
later life. 

Religious Education 
We have found that a servantless home lends 
itself in an unexpected manner to religious educa- 
tion. We had tried various plans for effecting 


the daily study of the Bible, but for one reason 
or another all had failed. A session of Bible 
study at the breakfast table, with the "de- 
structive listening" of a maid waiting to put the 
dining-room in order, was certainly not held 
under ideal conditions; and a session at any 
other time meant artificial assembling, and the 
overcoming of inertia. After the servants left 
and we came into the complete possession of our 
own home, we easily fell into the way of taking 
a few minutes each morning after breakfast for 
reading the Bible. In these studies we are care- 
ful to follow the spirit of the occasion. Some- 
times after a very brief reading we will separate 
with no discussion. At other times a question 
will be asked by one of the children, which will 
lead us to close the Bible, and devote an hour 
to discussion. In this way some of the stum- 
bling-blocks to faith are being removed, and a 
religious conception of life is being formed in 
the minds of our children. 

Formation of Right Ideals 

The plan proposed helps in the formation of 
right ideals. Instruction given once a week at 
Sunday-school and church often quickly fades 
away, partly because it is not spontaneously 
sought, and partly because it is not sufficiently 
correlated with action. For the same reason 
much of the formal instruction given in the 


ordinary home amounts to little. If you should 
say to yourself: "Tomorrow morning at nine 
o'clock I will sit down with my children, and 
give them correct ideas about dancing," the 
chances are ten to one that little impression 
would be made. But if you are spending 
several hours each day associating with your 
children in the duties and pleasures of the home, 
you will find numberless occasions when the true 
ideals of life can be given in response to their own 
spontaneous seeking. The daily and hourly 
needs and contacts of a servantless home provide 
unsurpassed conditions for imparting truth at 
the psychologic moment — the moment when it is 
desired, asked for, and imperatively needed for 
immediate use. Truth imparted under these 
conditions enters directly into a child's ideals, 
and is woven permanently into his character. 

Solves the Servant Problem 

Another happy, though quite incidental re- 
sult of this way of living is its solution of the 
servant problem. Occasionally in conversation 
with friends we are reminded that the servant 
problem is still chronic in most families of the 
prosperous class; otherwise we should hardly 
know that such a problem existed. With proper 
treatment machinery never answers back, and 
never goes on strike. Nor is it ever so happy, so 
to speak, as when performing its appointed task. 


Constant practice in work brings increase of 
faculty, and less dread of emergencies; while in a 
family with servants there is deterioration of 
faculty and consequent dependence more and 
more abject. In a servantless home there is no 
haunting fear that the servants may leave. The 
life of the family is not constantly followed by 
envious eyes, irate voices, and discontented 
looks. The conscience is not disturbed by the 
lurking thought that elegance and leisure based 
on labor requited by social degradation is un- 
ethical. Yet if the house is highly organized and 
equipped, it is like the little silver cask which 
"Mr. Wind" gave to "John Peter" in the story: 
Struck with the magic wand of service, its 
treasures open, and all reasonable wants are 
joyfully and efficiently ministered to by the tiny 
elves Electricity and Machinery. 

Strengthens the Family 

Providing for the needs of their children is in 
the order of nature a common bond between 
parents. But in artificial homes where the 
physical needs of the children are attended to by 
servants, and their educational needs are indis- 
criminately placed upon the school, this common 
bond is to a large extent lost. What wonder 
then that in such homes the father and mother 
after a few years often begin to draw apart! 
The purpose of developing the natural educa- 


tional advantages of the home gives to the father 
and mother an absorbing common interest, and 
thus adds strength to the family. 

To say in conclusion that the type of home 
we have described is a happy home is merely to 
repeat in a word what has already been said. 
There is some sacrifice in leisure and luxury, 
which can well be spared; there is a gain in edu- 
cation, health, and economic efficiency, which 
are indispensable. That the net result must be 
an increase of happiness is self-evident. Every 
home that sacrifices non-essentials for the sake 
of education has in it a source of happiness as 
permanent as the need for improvement of 


3477-1 S3 
Lot 74 

Tie Morrill Press, Fulton, N. Y. 

V-_ < T> o 




4 o 

o * 

^ : MM° ***** : M&- W .7*' 

\<?\ : S ; /\ v^P ^ v % \W* #* 

. . °^ * • - ° A V * • • ' * <£ O - 

■ o - o ^ *\<J.